Year in Review: 2023 Environmental and Policy News

Last month, the CIEEM team recorded episode 10 of our Nature In A Nutshell podcast which rounded up the top news stories that impacted people and nature in 2023. You can listen to the podcast episode below (or download it on Spotify or Apple Podcasts) or read our summary.

1. Nutrient Neutrality

In September 2023, we heard that the government was going to amend the current nutrient neutrality rules in England by inserting amendments into the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The environmental community, including CIEEM, was understandably critical of the government’s move, which feels like another attack on nature recovery and completely undermines already identified nutrient mitigation schemes, creating further delay and uncertainty for the housing market in the short term.

2. COP 28

In November/December 2023, the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. More than 130 countries (including the US, China, the UK, and collection of countries in the European Union) signed a declaration to include food emissions in plans to tackle climate change. Food contributes about 1/3 to global greenhouse emissions, with the signatories being responsible for 75% of all emissions. This is the first time that the COP has recognised that what people grow and eat is a key factor in global warming.

Another positive thing to come out of COP 28 was an agreement on the loss and damage fund for countries suffering under the effects of climate change. The idea is that weather, more developed countries and countries which emit a lot of carbon currently should pay for the loss and damage to other nations inflicted by climate change e.g. flooding from sea level rise or extreme weather events. They agreed to fund $420m with a large proportion of that coming from Germany and the UAE.

There was still no formal agreement to phase out fossil fuels, however.

3. Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)

  • England: Mandatory BNG was delayed from November 2023 to January 2024.
  • Scotland: There has been voluntary implementation of the Biodiversity Net Gain metric and process by private organisations. But the biodiversity strategy consultation from the Scottish Government mentions a biodiversity metric so that will further develop.
  • Ireland: There’s been voluntary implementation aby some state agencies as well there. CIEEM has just published a briefing paper on implementation of biodiversity enhancements in Ireland and how we see that going forward.
  • Wales: There’s been real interest from the Welsh Government in how BNG is progressing in England, particularly in how the metric works, but they’ve taken a particularly different approach to biodiversity enhancements in Wales, using their DECCA framework as part of the planning process, which has its emphasis on wider landscape resilience and ecosystem functioning.

4. Green jobs and routes into the sector

  • Ireland: CIEEM has been engaging with key government departments and stakeholders to look at how we develop strategic responses to bring people into the sector.
  • Scotland: Skills Development Scotland has recognised the growing demand of green jobs.
  • Wales: Things have been a bit slower to take off in Wales, but there have been some encouraging signs recently of interest from the Welsh Government to work with CIEEM and agencies such as Nature Service for Wales and taking a collaborative approach to building the green workforce.
  • England: The government has been working on a green jobs action plan, which CIEEM’s CEO, Sally Hayns, has been at the heart of that work. It has included workforce assessment and future planning, green jobs promotion and retention strategies and looking at entry routes into the profession. The plan should be published in the spring, but in the meantime we’re just getting on with the identified actions.

5. State of Nature report

The 2023 State of Nature report was published, which is the most comprehensive assessment of nature in the UK and pulls the data from a huge number of NGOs. Sadly, the 2023 report continues to report on a decline in nature in the UK’s wildlife. Nearly one in six species are threatened with extinction and 151 of 10,008 species have already become extinct since 1500. Overall the report continues to show a decline in the UK’s wildlife which we need to reverse.

6. Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA’s)

HPMA’s are intended to be a step up from the current marine protected areas with the intention being that all human extractive, destructive and depositional activities are prohibited within each site e.g. dredging and construction. This is intended to allow areas of the ocean to recover. The locations that have been chosen have been chosen because of the high levels of biodiversity and ecosystem complexity:

  • Allonby Bay
  • North East of Farnes Deep
  • Dolphin Head

Listen to the full podcast episode for more insight and also our predictions for what we expect to see happen in 2024.